Before you begin
The term “max out” will be used periodically throughout this booklet. This means that you will repeat an exercise, counting the repetitions, until you feel a burning sensation in the muscles you are concentrating. For example, you may be able to start out doing 25 repetitions of the traditional crunches before it starts to burn. This will be your max repetitions as well as your first set. Rest ten seconds before going on to your second and third sets of 25 repetitions each. Note: If you are starting a new workout program, your “max out” number may fluctuate up and down for the first few days. You will probably experience some tightness in your muscles for a few days after you begin and your “max out” number will be lower than it was when you started. For a couple of weeks, depending on frequency of exercise, check for a new “max out” every few days as muscles tighten and loosen.
It is recommended that you cross your arms over your chest to avoid the temptation to pull your head off the floor. If it is easier or more comfortable to put your hands behind your head, concentrate on not letting them touch your head or place them on your ears. Pulling your head causes unnecessary strain on your neck and often keeps you from getting the full work out in your abdomen.
Breathing is important in any work out. Crunches are an aerobic work out, meaning with air. You rest between repetitions and you breath during them. Inhale while contracting your muscles and exhale while relaxing.
Remember, as with starting any exercise regimen, consult your doctor for any precautions you should be taking, especially concerning any heart, respiratory or back problems you may have.
Start with these exercises, adding advanced exercises as these become easier, approximately 2-3 weeks, depending on frequency of exercise.
Works the middle and upper abdominals
Lie on your back with your knees bent at a comfortable angle (your heels should be approximately a foot to 18 inches from your tailbone). Cross your arms over your chest and raise your shoulders off the floor as far as you can before it becomes strenuous. Continue this process until you “max out,” rest and repeat.
Traditional Crunches variation 1
Works the upper abdominals
Same as the traditional crunches except that your feet are elevated. Your knees should be at a 90 deegree angle. At first it may be easier to rest your feet on a chair or stool for this but as you get stronger you will want to hold them up. Again, cross your arms over your chest and raise your shoulders off the floor, following the same principles as you did with the traditional crunches. “Max out,” rest and repeat.
Traditional Crunches variation 2
Works the upper and middle abdominals
Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air. Your legs should be at a 90 deegree angle with the floor and with your spine. Extend your arms and reach for your toes, pulling your shoulders up off the floor. This should be done in three sets of ten repetitions.
Works the oblique muscles (love handles)
Lie on your side with your lower arm stretched under your head for support. Raise up off the floor bringing your upper elbow to your upper leg, while curling your upper leg into your chest. Do three sets of ten repetitions on each side.
Add these exercises slowly after 2-3 weeks of the beginning exercises. Continue the beginning exercises, increasing the repetitions gradually.
Lie on your back on a bench or table at a 45 degree angle with your feet at the top and your head below. Be sure to have your feet anchored so that you don’t pull yourself off and slide onto the floor. With your arms crossed over your chest, raise your shoulders off the bench as you would for a traditional crunch, but don‘t lower your back all the way to the starting angle. Do three sets of ten repetitions.
Hanging Leg Lifts
Works the lower abdominals
Find a place where you can hang with your feet dangling below you. It is more comfortable if you can have your shoulders and arms flat while doing this rather than above your head. Raise your legs first to a level table-top height, 90ฐ angle to the spine. After ten repetitions at this angle, try to touch your knees to your chest. This will grow easier as you repeat this exercise. Do three sets of ten at each angle.
Lower abdominal leg lifts
Works the lower abdominals (a typical problem area for women)
Position yourself on the edge of a heavy, sturdy table or bench. One that is bolted to the floor is excellent for this but if you can’t find one, just make sure that it weighs at least half as much as you. Sit on the very edge (1-2 inches from the edge) hold yourself onto the table with your hands. Lift your legs out in front of you as high as you can. As you continue to do this, you will be able to raise your legs higher but don’t exceed a 45ฐ angle with your spine. Three sets of ten repetitions.
Works the lower and middle abdominals.
Lie flat on your back with your hands under your tailbone for support. Raise shoulders and legs at the same time. Start by raising up as far as you can and gradually work up until your shoulders and feet are approximately two feet off the floor. These are normally done in three sets of ten repetitions.
Works upper abdominals
Lie flat on back with you legs stretched out in front of you and your arms stretched above your head. Lift your shoulders off the floor bringing your right arm across your body to touch to the elbow to the left knee. Switch, touching the left elbow to the right knee. Do ten repetitions with each side (twenty total). Only do one set of these as they can cause a great deal of strain to the back and spine.
The exercises in this section should be added gradually after you have been working on the advanced program for 2-3 weeks. They rely on resistance to work properly, so a partner is very strongly suggested, although weights can substitute for the partner if needed.
Leg throw downs
Works all abdominal groups
It is best to find a partner who is heavier than you so that you don’t pull them over on top of you, as this exercise creates a great deal of force. Lay on your back and grasp your partner behind their ankles. Raise your legs and have your partner push them away, to both sides, to the front/center, and in a circular motion. The work out comes from keeping your heels from touching the ground on each swing, then raising them back in the air. Start with five repetitions in each direction and add more as the work out becomes easier, not exceeding fifteen in any direction.
Lie on the floor with your legs on a stool or chair (knees and waist should both be at 90บ angles). Have your partner sit on your feet to add leverage. While you bring yourself to a sitting position, your partner will push against your shoulders. Hold each repetition for five seconds, do three sets of ten repetitions.
Works the love handles and lower back
Lie on your stomach on a bench or table with your hips at the edge. Have your partner sit on your legs (or place weights on your legs to match three quarters or more of your weight) for balance. Raise your torso as high as you can, being sure that you don’t swing your torso. This exercise requires a great deal of lower back strength so it is best to wait until you have mastered all of the other exercises here before you add this one to your routine.
Written by: D. Jensen